A review of Stumbling Thru and Stumbling Thru Part II by A. Digger Stolz
POD and myself were especially skeptical over yet another Appalachian Trail thru-hike account.
We have both read too many accounts over the years and they all blur together:
- A person gets the bug to the hike the Appalachian Trail.
- Lots of strange, expensive and new equipment is bought.
- The person arrives at Springer Mountain and starts hiking. Blisters are had, rashes procured in strange places and the new life is experienced with a bit of difficulty.
- A colorful cast of characters with names like “Snot Rocket
- The person adapts to trail life as the earlier obstacles are overcome
- Katahdin is reached.
- A post-hike chapter is included with reflection on the journey.
Some of the books are great. Many are bland. Still, others are, frankly, terrible. But they are stories we’ve all read before. And they almost all follow the arc of above. We’ve been there, read that and have the (hiking) t-shirt.
Then one day, we all had the free time. We read part one. We were pleasantly surprised. We loved the book!
We gave it an enthusiastic review on our podcast. We could not wait for part two.
So what changed our initial skepticism of this book?
What makes Stumblin’ Thru so unique is that it is a work of fiction that takes places on the Appalachian Trail. And it written very well.
The personalities may be fictional, but they are definitely people we all have seen on the long trails:
- The grad student who is very well-educated and wants you to know it
- The ex-military person who is recovering from a war
- The older retiree everyone loves
- The person who has THE best gear because that is what he was told he should use from his on-line forum reading
- The competent outdoors woman who seems to have single guys following her up the trail
- The person who hikes the trail with little preparation, old gear and somehow manages to…stumble through!
- And so on…
The stories themselves are based in reality as well: The active commerce up and down the trails vs the grass-roots efforts of years ago, certain spots that are famous for their beauty or infamous for other reasons and the trail personalities encountered on the trail.
I love how Digger Stolz describes the personalities. When Stolz is putting the personalities in a positive light, such as the well-loved Bob Peoples, the real name is used. And when the text is less than positive? Well, people familiar with the Appalachian Trail scene will get the Easter Eggs. The loud and vocal “Rhode Island Red” who has done multiple AT thru-hikers will sound VERY familiar (It is not me..honest! 😉 ) And so will a certain hostel owner down south who never misses a chance to make a buck or two off of hikers.
Stolz really does capture, as author said in an email to us, “… something that honest-to-goodness, been-there-done-that, for reals, sweat-stained, salt-crusted, blister-loving, mountain-humping hikers could appreciate and, from the sounds of it, I came pretty damn close.”
He did indeed.
Read the books. See what an Appalachian Trail thru-hike is all about.
Well written, engaging, and enjoyable.